On Selfishness

iStock_momchildWomen who are thinking of becoming a Single Mother by Choice (SMC) sometimes are told, or worry, that they are being selfish. Here are my thoughts on selfishness.

I am trying to conceive (ttc) and this is how I explain it to my friends when they ask.

My life as a single person is selfish.  My money, time and energy go to things that please me and to do things I enjoy.  Just one year ago I hopped on a plane and went to Nicaragua to learn to surf.  Everything I do every single day is for me.  Every single day is selfish and self centered.

I am not a selfish or self centered person in my heart, and this life is uncomfortable.  I don’t like doing things to merely entertain myself, but since I have no one in my life (husband or kid) to focus on, and as I was approaching my 40s, I found I was doing less and less to keep myself busy.  I would prefer to have a child to focus on, to love, and to spend my money, energy and time on.

I would love that complete selfLESSness that comes from being a mom – and I cannot wait to sacrifice so many things to focus on my kid.  I think having a child, being a mom, in whatever format, is the most unselfish thing a person can do.  Being a parent is unselfish. Wanting to watch a kid’s eyes light up when they learn something new, sees their first Christmas morning, or graduates from high school is not something that is selfish to desire.  It is me wanting to love and nurture, raise and teach another human being – as all people who want kids do.  Just because I am single does not mean this is selfish – it is human nature and the glory of the circle of life.

I remember first understanding that this was not selfish when I was in Italy, standing on a mountainside in Amalfi overlooking the beautiful scenery. My childless friend said, “we are so lucky!’ and all I could think of was how much I would rather have been home with a child/family.

Selfishness, for me, was being on that luxurious trip. Self LESS ness, for me, is raising a child.


10 thoughts on “On Selfishness”

  1. I can’t agree with RBC more. As much as any parent, mother or father, wants a child, the perspective that’s always provided is from that parent and what they want to give, provide, love, etc. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILD? Who is thinking about how this will affect them when these decisions are being made? They get no say, and no matter how anyone would like the truth to be wished away, there are fundamental things derived from having two parents that you are denying that child. While I don’t think anybody can stop someone from becoming a single parent by choice, there is no way to get around the fact that there are some grave disadvantages by making this decision.

    1. A child gets no say whether or not they are born into a single or double parent family, and strangely enough, no one thinks of how being born into a two parent family will affect the child because there is an assumption that that is ok.

      Your argument about certain fundamental things being present in two parent families that aren’t in single parent ones is not borne out by fact. A child who grows up and has a family will pass those certain fundamental things that they got from both their parents onto their kids. The kids are not being short-changed on that front.

      Additionally your post denies the fact there are many kinds of mothers and fathers out there – you get mothers who play roughhouse with the kids and fathers who do tea parties. You get ‘maternal’ fathers and ‘paternal’ mothers.

  2. And one more thing: for many of us, we chose to become moms as a single person. That does not mean, for me at least, that I chose to be single and not have a father figure. God willing, I will find that guy, but for now, at my age, my choices have to be selfish or I will never get the chance to be a mom….and that would by devastating.

  3. As the original author of this post, I just want to acknowledge that certainly there is a duality of selfishness and selflessness, and perhaps this was lost when it was taken out of the context of the original question to which it was written. But at the same time, while you have been a child of an SMC, you have not walked in my shoes and you do not know what it feels like to live in a skin of selfishness, when all I want to do is give love, give my money and give my time to a child. No child grows up un-scarred from their parents, be it single parents, or couples. We can all find things “wrong” with our parental situation. I agree with the first comment, in that ideal situations are not common, and even in ideal situations a thriving, happy child is not guaranteed.

    All we can do is love wholly and be selfless in the raising of our children. As an SMC, I absolutely expect to overcompensate for the guilt I will feel for not having a dad. There is little idealism for most of the women who choose to be a single mom. The fact that we will have to sacrifice more of our time, not have security of a dual income, and be “on” 24 hours a day with no one to calm the crying baby when Im sick with the flu – these are the realities we think hard about, we agonize over,when we are consciously and intelligently making this “selfish” decision. The decision itself is selfish, but the selflessness is great.

  4. Intriguing perspetives on the matter, as always. Something often intrinsically missed in this argument is the aftershock of missing an additional parental perspective in a child’s (and especially teen / young adult development). Not to mention diminished time and resources dedicated to giving the child the proper guidance and life fundamentals to maximize the probability of success; not just as a child, but furthermore as an adult that will someday eventually have to deal with other adults.

    It affects children of both sexes as many of their critical thinking skillsets and values are often shaped by outside resources (media especially), which in many cases takes precedent over parental guidance. No one can pinpoint when the aftershocks of these incongruities of perspective and guidance in such crucial stages one one’s development shake out in a person’s life, but they are there and eventually emerge; and that (once child) is left to deal with the situation directly as they attempt to find their way in the world.

    In applauding single mothers who managed to find or make paths of success for their families, we’ve glorified a path that in many (I’d argue most) circumstances was forced upon or inherited by many women. In having deep and loose discourse regarding this topic with close friends and family across a myriad of ages and demographics, I didn’t find many single mothers who applauded the additional responsibility and / or challenges, despite achieving success as single mother.

    The argument always stands that it takes a village to raise a child, however it seems rather selfish on some level to knowingly bring a child into the world and present them with such a fundamental disadvantage regarding regarding sound holistic guidance and life skills. What is most important is that a child be loved, looked after, and given the BEST tools, skills, time, guidance and perspectives to excel in life. Perhaps looking at having a child to fill a time / void in one’s recreational activity is not the best rationale. Selflessness knows no bounds…if one was selfish in the past, having a child isn’t automatically going to convert anyone overnight.

  5. I think it is a bit disingenuous to act like on some level it isn’t selfish to have a child outside of a loving two parent household. We can argue about whether it is more or less selfish than having a child when you are young or poor or uneducated or any other of the stations in life a person could be in they have a child but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t selfish. I am donor conceived child and I respect my mother immensely for being honest and open with me while acknowledging that her decision to have me via anonymous sperm donor was on some levels selfish. I was denied the right to ever know my father and my paternal lineage. It is insulting when single mothers by choice try to diminish that by acting like it isn’t on some level a selfish choice to bring a child into the world without their biological father. I am not bashing my mother because I think she also clearly had me because she wanted to have a child to love and nurture and raise into a productive and intelligent member of society. I believe she succeeded on all of those counts largely because she is a great mother and a great person who admitted both her successes and her shortcomings. I am active on the donor conceived community boards as well and most of the angriest and disenfranchised people on those boards are driven there by their own single mother by choice who refuse to acknowledge that there is a selfish aspect to their decision to have a child without a father. I hope I do not come off angry or bitter because I am far from it. I do not begrudge SMBC or question their ability to be great parents and raise wonderful children but I do dislike the self-righteous zeal with which SOME members of the community disregard the duality of their decision to be choice moms.

    1. This makes no sense to me. I was born never knowing my biological father because he was a deadbeat and ran from the responsibility. My mother never went after him or asked him for anything. So, really it doesn’t matter if a child was conceived “normally” or a single mother by choice. I think it is not selfish to want to give all of your time, attention, and love to a child. Maybe it is selfish of you to demand the perfect scenario from your mother. Life isn’t perfect and if it comes down to me being a single mother by choice to experience motherhood in my lifetime, then I’m doing it. Even if you have a child in a 2 person marriage, it doesn’t mean that both parents will always be in that child’s life.

  6. I accept the argument that in an overpopulated world with unequally distributed resources among people to grow and thrive in safety, health and happineess, that it is fundamentally “selfish” for anyone, including married couples, to have a child. I accept that unless you (married or single) are rescuing existing, born children from non-nurturing and/or unhealthy circumstances to provide them a safe and healthy home to grow, for altruistic purposes, then having kids is just selfish. But selfish does not always mean bad. Married and single people have children for selfish reasons and some of those reasons may seem less or more selfish (for example, it may seem “better” to have a child because you want to raise and nurture a child than to have a child because you want to try and “save” a marriage) but in the end, adults, absolutely including married adults, who decide to have children are making a selfish choice: they want kids/a kid so they have a kid. My choice to have a child was selfish. My point is that married people are no more or no less selfish than me just because they are married and I am single. We can only hope that all of us selfish parents out there, married and single, choose and work to do well by the innocent products of our selfishness and that we work hard to create a better world for all our children.

  7. Not to worry Mimi. I think she’s using sarcasm to illustrate her point that you could argue anyone who’s not in the “perfect” situation (ie everyone) is selfish for having a child.

  8. But of course what people mean with that popular line is that it’s selfish to have a child without two parents. And really, kidding no one, they mean one male and one female. I always want to reply that I am surprised at the number of people who have children so young, when greater maturity makes anyone a better parent. Oh well, I guess their plans for their own lives were more important than what’s really best for their children. How shocking that some people choose to have kids without huge amounts of money. All the terrible selfish people who have children and then send them to public school instead of private. Poor little things.

    So selfish of anyone, ever, to have a child without a lifetime guarantee of perfectly optimal circumstances and unlimited resources, like couple have.

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